Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Thursday clarified that "none of the provisions of the water Cess Act passed by the state violates the water rights of neighbouring states, adding that, "that Water cess has already been imposed by various state governments like Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir governments.
"None of the provisions of this Act violates the water rights of neighbouring states," CM Sukhu said.
"I would like to inform the House that this Act in no way violates the provisions of the Inter-State River Dispute Act-1956 or any other MoU and I want to assure all the neighbouring states that this Ordinance will not affect Legitimate Rights," CM Sukhu assured.
"On the same lines, the Government of Himachal Pradesh has set up various power generation agencies to increase the revenue of the state. The cess is levied on water used by established hydropower projects and not on water flowing across neighbouring state borders," CM Sukhu informed.
CM Sukhu's remarks came after the Government of Punjab and Haryana raised an objection to the Water Cess Act - 2023 brought by the Government of Himachal Pradesh:-
"Giving respect to its neighbouring states, Himachal Pradesh wants to say that the Water Cess on Hydro Power Generation Act 2023 implemented by the government in the state does not violate any kind of inter-state treaties, nor does it violate the provisions of the Indus water treaty," CM Sukhu clarified.
CM Sukhu added that the assertion by Punjab and Haryana that the Himachal government's decision to impose water cess is against the Inter-State River Disputes Act, 1956 is not logical as it does not affect the water released to neighbouring states.
"I also want to bring to notice that imposing water cess on power generation is under the jurisdiction of the state and it is logical that about 45000-hectare land of the state was submerged by the reservoirs of three projects of BBMB in the state. In Himachal Pradesh, the state does not have any right over the water from the reservoirs created by these projects, but the adverse environmental impact of these reservoirs Himachal has been facing for decades, be it local climate change, adverse changes in agriculture and horticulture, facing health problems, social and economic changes, all these changes have affected the reservoirs of these projects. Has badly affected human life," the CM added.
CM Sukhu highlighted that it is ironic that today when hydropower projects are built, ESIA (Environmental Social Impact Assessment) environmental and social impacts are assessed to compensate for all these adverse effects and for this ESMP (Environmental Social Management Plan) environmental, a social management plan is approved.
"It is implemented and widely worked for the upliftment of the local area and environmental and social security. These reservoirs have not only swallowed agricultural and horticultural land, obstructed the means of transport, water sources have been submerged, and religious places and cremation grounds have been submerged, but the rehabilitation of the displaced people who were destroyed 50-60 years ago could not be completed," CM expressed concern.
"The statement of the Punjab Government that this step of the Himachal Government is illegal is not logical. This Ordinance does not infringe any coastal rights of the State of Punjab," CM added.
"Further, it is pertinent to submit that any provision of the Himachal Pradesh Water Cess on Hydro Electricity Generation Act, 2023 is repugnant to or in violation of the Inter-State River Disputes Act, 1956 and does not prevent the State from levying water cess on electricity generation. There is no restriction on the use of water and levy of water cess under section 7 of this Act. Section 7 of the Inter-State River Disputes Act, 1956 makes this provision," CM Sukhu said.
CM Sukhu said that as per the constitutional provision, water is a state subject and the state has rights over its water resources.
"Further, Himachal Pradesh recognizes the Indus Water Treaty, 1960 and the Himachal Pradesh Water Cess on Hydro Electricity Generation Act, 2023 promulgated by the Government of Himachal Pradesh does not violate any provision of the said treaty. Because the imposition of water cess neither affects the release of water to the neighbouring states nor does it change the flow pattern of the rivers. A water cess has been imposed on the use of water by the state has every right to levy a cess on the use of water as water is a state subject," Sukhu said. (ANI)